Choosing Children's Books
All adults choose children’s books according to some kind of standard, even though we may be unaware of exactly why we pick one book over another. Our first responsibility when selecting books, then, is to determine what guides our choices. For instance:
- The lessons they teach. We want children to learn the correct lessons about life. If a book teaches what we want taught, we call it a good book.
- Large, colorful illustrations. Young eyes need stimulation, and color provides it better than black and white. Also, the pictures need to be large enough for children to see clearly.
- Absence of harshness. Children will run into difficulty soon enough. Let them enjoy childhood. Protect them from the tough side of life as long as possible.
- Absence of scariness. We don’t want to invite fears or nightmares.
- Absence of swearing. We don’t want books to model inappropriate behavior.
- Short. Keep the reading easy.
- Simple vocabulary. We don’t want to frustrate or overpower children.
- Familiar content. We think our child will respond to a book about zoos because we go to one often. If a book connects with a child’s experience, it will be a better book.
- Personal and/or social preference. We want the values and social views represented in the book to be what we consider appropriate.
A problem with the reasons just listed is that they are narrow and sometimes misguided; they focus on only a tree and miss the forest. If we want to help create lifelong readers by choosing books that appeal to the greatest range and number of children, we need to view the book as a whole instead of focusing on only a small element. And the most trustworthy standard for viewing the whole book is to look at the experience it offers. Titles of lasting value can almost be defined as experiences that re-create the very texture of life.
Problems can arise, however, in trying to convince others of the power of that experience. Generally, when we like a book—or don’t like it—we assume the book deserves our response. When books please us, we think they are well written or have other measurable literary value. Works that leave us cold are somehow lacking in merit. It is largely human nature to think others will respond the way we do. The following two cases illustrate the extremes.
© ______ 2008, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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